Archive for December 2010

Into the New Year

I have not used my new blog page since it was made available to me, partly because of my own timidity with all things technological, and partly because it's been a busy few months. But, today, after the Christmas rush is over and I am home for a few quiet days with my family, it's a good time to begin.

It's hard to believe that it will soon be 6 months since becoming Bishop of Moosonee. It's been a very steep learning curve, with lots of challenges and loads of experiences. As I come to the 6-month point (on the Feast of the Epiphany), I am pleased to say that I have visited almost all of the parishes of the Diocese in my wish to be introduced and to learned the Diocese first-hand. It turned out to be a pretty mammoth undertaking, forgetting that I might have had other things I needed to do, but I have appreciated it all. I am indebted to the clergy and people of the Diocese for their warmth and enthusiasm in welcoming me into your midst.

As I look back over these first few months, there are numerous highlights. Among them include my visit to the parish of Kashechewan on James Bay's west coast…two days after my consecration. Kash, as it is locally known, has not had a resident priest for 6 years, following the devastating spring flooding the community experienced. In the two floods within 18 months, we lost our church building and rectory through resulting mold buildup. The building is now a warehouse for the Band Council. In turn the Council has provided us with two empty utility trailers, which make up a temporary church building. My first visit was busy with a Gospel Jamboree to welcome me, then a celebration of Baptism when 21 children were brought forward…one of then born on the day of my consecration 3 days earlier…whew!. On Sunday morning we gathered in the school gym for Confirmation, when 22 young people were presented. That was followed by a huge feast with 250 people present.


 My first Confirmees at Kashechewan


Before leaving the community leaders of the church there asked me to find them a new Minister. I am so pleased that as I compose this page, a new priest has been found and will be heading to Kash within the next week. Halleulia!!!

A couple of weeks later Ruth joined me for our first trip into the Quebec portion of the Diocese and the drive to Waswanipi and Mistissini. We arrived at Waswanipi on a late Friday afternoon to be greeting by a gathering congregation preparing a welcoming feast…complete with five large barbeques on the lawn and a table weighed down with food…traditional and otherwise!  Upon arrival the congregation presented the Bishop with a gift. Laughter reigned when he opened it to discover three pieces of bannock and a large jar of peanut butter…the result of my response to a question asked by a parish member at the consecration as to what my favourite native food was!!!

We had a full weekend with a trip to Mistissini where another 25 young people were confirmed and an adult was baptised…followed by a community feast.


Confirmation at St. John's Church Mistissini


Then on the same Sunday, a quick drive back to Waswanipi for yet another feast and an evening Confirmation for 6 young people…and more food! It brought to mind, the advice from one of my brother bishops to be careful with the feasts. He had gained 50 lbs in his first year as Bishop of his Diocese!

Among the other highlights of these months has been my visit to our largest parish at Chisasibi. I was joined by the Archbishop, Colin Johnson and the Diocesan Administrator, Edna Murdy. The trip was to meet with the Church Board at St. Philips, who have wanted to make some changes to our ministry there that has resulted in some concern both inside and outside the community. My grandmother, Lydia Swanson, was born in Chisasibi, so it becamse a most poignant visit.  Our visit was a busy one, but a good one that also included a visit to the old village site in the middle of the La Grande River. Chisasibi has a 4000 population and our church there is served by 5 priests and 2 deaons, all locally raised and non-stipendary.


 With the Archbshop at the old St. Philip's Church, Fort George Island, the old village site in the La Grande River


In the fall I spent a week in the other east James Bay coast communities, the largest being Wemindji. The week began with a weekend meeting of the Diocesan Indigenous Council that saw some thirty representatives of the First Nations parishs participate. The Sunday service incuded another large confirmation class of 25 young people in a packed church, that had just recently been enlarged to seat twice it's previous capacity. One huge highlight in Wemindji was being able to be with the Rev. Samuel Hughboy, now 94 years old, with whom I had been ordained in 1975. Sam is a highly respected priest and community elder.

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Wemindji Confirmation 


The latter part of the year has been spent travelling across the southern half of this vast Diocese, from Geraldton to Kirkland Lake to Chapleau. The fall weather turned to winter quickly in  the Diocese and I ended up travelling through literal white-outs over three different weekends. Sadly at Nakina I deconsecrated old St. George's Church, once the headquarters of the western end missions, but the next weekend I consecrated a small chapel, actually a former 2 bedroom bungalow, that has been given to us at Constance Lake First Nation. It's called St. Stephen's Chapel.

During these first few months, it's been uplifting to ordain two new priests and to induct two clergy into new ministries. We look forward to welcoming other new clergy into the Diocese in the months ahead.


Induction at St. Peter's Church, Kirkland Lake December 5th


My final services were two wonderful Christmas celebrations at Foleyet, which was my first parish in 1975 and Chapleau, which is my home parish. Both saw full churches and many old friends and family. It was a most uplifting conclusion to my first travels.

The Diocese of Moosonee is going through numerous changes and the year ahead will see more. Some will be difficult. As we go into the year ahead, I pray that I will be mindful that this is the Lord's Church and we are His stewards. As well, I am mindful that this is "the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes".

A happy new year to you and your family.

Bishop Tom